Angus cattle grazing in Louisa County, south of Lake Anna
Cows in Virginia come in two kinds - meat and dairy. In 2020, there were 1.45 million cattle in Virginia:1
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic occurred as milk demand was declining and dairy farms were closing. Closure of restaurants and other food-service establishments almost eliminated 40% of the market, and panic buying in grocery stores did not offset the loss.
In the previous two years, 100 dairy farms in Virginia had closed, and only 450 remained. The shift in demand was too quick for fresh milk producers to shift to production of yogurt, cheese, and other more-lasting products. One farmer noted how the supply chain would be slow to adapt to the abrupt disruption of the market, and how that would impact prices for fresh milk:2
meat rations for Union soldiers in the Civil War were marched behind the armies
Source: Library of Congress, Army beef swimming the Occoquan River, Virginia (by Alfred R. Waud, 1863)
in a heavily-grazed field, even the trees can show evidence of hungry cattle